As a military servicemember, practicing financial readiness and fully understanding retirement benefits for yourself and your family is half the battle.
Next year, the U.S. Department of Defense is unveiling its new blended retirement system (BRS). Effective Jan. 1, 2018, all newly signed servicemembers will be opted into the BRS automatically. Those serving as of Dec. 31, 2017, will be grandfathered into the current retirement system. However, those serving on active-duty as of Dec. 31 with less than 12 years of service, and those in the Reserves with fewer than 4,320 retirement points, will be eligible to opt into the blended retirement system if they desire.
The advent of BRS is bringing a whole new layer to financial readiness for the 21st-century servicemember. In addition to planning for retirement, there are the simple tasks of planning a daily budget and knowing how much to put away into savings.
Fortunately, servicemembers have the USAA Educational Foundation to turn to for financial preparedness resources. The foundation is funded by an endowment from USAA, and as a nonprofit, it does not recommend any financial services or products.
For the past 10 years, the USAA Educational Foundation has deployed volunteers to deliver financial readiness presentations to servicemembers across the U.S. In 2016, it presented 1,000 presentations to 50,000 servicemembers nationwide.
"What we were finding was we needed something to scale it," said Scott Halliwell, director and financial readiness program lead for the foundation.
Last October at the annual AUSA Convention in Washington, D.C., the foundation launched the Command Your Cash Microlearning Center, a digital learning tool that fits all laptops, desktops, smart phones and tablets.
Servicemembers can watch up to 50 videos from any device that teach them about financial topics like what to know about BRS, wise investment practices, or how to create a daily spending budget.
"All videos are two minutes in length or less," Halliwell said. "Attention spans have shortened. We're targeting the younger generations of servicemembers."
At the end of each video, servicemembers can complete an assessment of the skills they've learned and even print off key points and worksheets to work on at their leisure.
"It's a self-paced education resource to improve their financial readiness," Halliwell explained.
Servicemembers can simply go to commandyourcash.org to establish a free account and get started on the road to financial happiness. Another great feature allows ROTC commanders or financial advisors at family readiness centers on military installations to register for an account and use the videos as supplemental materials to complement in-person financial classes they deliver to the military personnel they serve.
Halliwell said the foundation plans to ramp up marketing efforts this year to promote the digital tool. As more users visit the site, metrics will show how well people are scoring on assessments along with what lessons they're choosing and not choosing, Halliwell said, noting, "it's a very adaptable tool we've built."
To learn more, visit commandyourcash.org.